ERIC ED569155: Focusing on Mathematical Knowledge: The Impact of Content-Intensive Teacher Professional Development. Executive Summary. NCEE 2016-4009
Publication date 2016-09
Topics ERIC Archive, Faculty Development, Mathematics Instruction, Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Teaching Methods, Mathematics Achievement, Workshops, Elementary Secondary Education, Video Technology, Feedback (Response), Coaching (Performance), Observation, Randomized Controlled Trials, Knowledge Level, Program Effectiveness, Program Implementation, Fidelity, Teacher Participation, Communities of Practice, Teacher Characteristics, Grade 4, Student Characteristics, Garet, Michael S.|Heppen, Jessica B.|Walters, Kirk|Parkinson, Julia|Smith, Toni M.|Song, Mengli|Garrett, Rachel|Yang, Rui|Borman, Geoffrey D.
Improving math achievement among U.S. students remains a high priority as results from recent math assessments continue to show room for improvement. For example, 60 percent of fourth-graders scored below the proficient level on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. On the most recent Program for International Student Assessment's math problem-solving test, U.S. 15-year-olds outperformed students in only 6 of the 34 participating countries. In an era of increasingly rigorous state standards, teachers at all grade levels face heightened expectations to deepen their students' understanding of mathematical concepts. Teachers may thus benefit from professional development (PD) that deepens their own conceptual understanding of math. Elementary school teachers may especially benefit from content-focused PD because they are less likely to formally study math in college than secondary teachers, who tend to specialize in the subject matter they teach. Unfortunately, there is limited convincing evidence to date on the effectiveness of content-focused PD. This report examines the impact of content-intensive PD on teachers' math content knowledge, their instructional practice, and their students' achievement. The study's PD had three components, totaling 93 hours. The core of the PD was "Intel Math," an intensive 80-hour workshop delivered in summer 2013 that focused on deepening teachers' knowledge of grades K-8 mathematics. Two additional PD components totaling 13 hours were delivered during the 2013-14 school year: the "Mathematics Learning Community," a series of five 2-hour collaborative meetings focused on analyzing student work; and "Video Feedback Cycles," a series of three one-on-one coaching sessions where teachers' lessons were observed and critiqued. The purpose of these two components was to reinforce the math content in Intel Math and help teachers apply the content to improve their instruction. Grade 4 teachers from 94 schools in six districts and five states participated in the study and were randomly assigned within schools to either a treatment group that received the study PD or a control group that did not receive the study PD. The key findings on the impact of the study PD on teacher knowledge, practice, and student achievement include: (1) The PD had a positive impact on teacher knowledge; (2) The PD had a positive impact on some aspects of instructional practice, particularly "Richness of Mathematics"; and (3) Despite the PD's generally positive impact on teacher outcomes, the PD did not have a positive impact on student achievement. The study addressed the following research questions: (1) Was the study PD implemented with fidelity; (2) What were the features of the PD as implemented; (3) To what extent did teachers participate in the PD; and (4) What was the impact on teachers' content knowledge, teachers' classroom practices, and student achievement, of offering content-focused PD relative to business-as-usual PD? The summary of findings revealed that the PD was well implemented with mathematical instructional quality evident most of the time, based on Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI) scores. All three components of the PD were implemented with high fidelity. On average, 96 percent of the expected 80 hours of Intel Math, and 100 percent of the planned Mathematics Learning Community and Video Feedback Cycle hours were delivered. Results show that the study PD did change some aspects of teachers' knowledge and classroom practice, but not in a way that led to improved student achievement. This may be partially explained by the finding that the math content knowledge and dimensions of instructional practice targeted by the study PD were generally not correlated with student math achievement. [For the full report "Focusing on Mathematical Knowledge: The Impact of Content-Intensive Teacher Professional Development. NCEE 2016-4010," see ED569154. For the Study Snapshot, "Focusing on Teachers' Mathematical Knowledge: The Impact of Content-Intensive Professional Development. Study Snapshot. NCEE 2016-4011," see ED569156. ]
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